When organizing the elements, materials and colors of an architectural layout, architects can successfully guide users through a room and its different spaces, therefore creating an easy and seamless trajectory for those inhabiting it. By exploring innovative strategies to create new ways of arranging a space, architecture can use color to boost certain aspects of a project’s scheme. The use of color in architectural design combines different factors beyond aesthetic preferences by also affecting the user’s emotions and behavior. Before launching into the color selection, the design process entails certain decision making, such as which architectural elements to highlight, if there is a zonification or division of spaces within the use of colors, the creation of focal points, and the consideration of how each color is associated with a determined mood.
With a breakdown of five architecture projects, the following article analyzes how color is applied as a design strategy to define spaces through three categories: structure, elements and objects, and definition of spaces.
'Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic' - Antoni Gaudí
Although they are not always clearly identifiable, highlighting structural elements can add value to architectural design. Wall-bearing structures, reinforced concrete, structural steel, tensile structures or a combination of these are recognized as basic structures or framing in architecture. Within the architectural structure, there are primary components that sustain its load-bearing capacity such as foundations, floorings, floor framing, walls, beams, or columns. By adding color to certain components, architectural layouts can turn structure into an aesthetic component.
In contrast with the light color palette used for the floors, ceilings, and furniture, ‘Blue House’ highlights the presence of beams, pillars, window frames, and stairs with the use of a different color. Associated with cool and secure spaces, choosing blue for the architectural structure creates a sense of stability through the user’s eyes.
Aiming to create a wide, clean, and integrated space, the project’s layout is sustained by a blue steel frame structure and precast slabs. The design plays with a ‘hide and show’ of the columns and beams, where their blue color seems to appear and disappear inside the walls. Hanging from the upper structure, colored stairs fulfill two roles: an attractive visual element and a functional connection between areas. Even though the house combines wall-bearing with structural steel, applying color to the latter highlights its structural hierarchy.
Within a renovation project of a 1971 house, the architecture strategy aimed to add ventilation and natural light into the living spaces. By demolishing internal walls, ‘Gama House’ created an integrated environment which is enclosed by a new green structure, which not only supports the second story of the building but adds color to the space while maintaining a simple layout.
The selection of pastel green to differentiate the entrance door, stairs, pillars, and floor framing structure creates a soothing and relaxing experience for the user. Maintaining a minimalist decorative interior, the material strategy plays with a combination of wood and porcelain tiles for the floor, exposed bricks and concrete for the walls, and green steel for the structure, which is characterized as the main decorative element.
Elements and Objects
When designing architecture layouts, there are different elements that can help define a space. Possibilities of how to arrange elements are infinite, but, how can color step-up their presence in architecture? Colors can be an effective way to highlight or play down certain elements in a space.
A late 1990’s small house renovation turned an abandoned space into a weekend and holiday retreat outside the city. In line with the serenity of living within the expansive fields of the countryside, the chosen shade of blue seeks to emphasize calm while remaining playful. Doors, window frames, and the porch’s structure are highlighted by the presence of ‘Azul França’ (France Blue), a strong color that follows the shade of the paint formerly used on the farm’s gates and fences. As such, white and blue tiles enhance how color memories guide the renovation’s design strategy.
The layout maintains the same color and material palette throughout the interior and exterior of the house, using textured grey concrete for the floors, white concrete walls, natural wood objects, and blue to distinguish specific elements and objects. Applying color to certain elements, such as window frames, enables the house to take advantage of its location –situated in the highest point of the site– and guide the views onto the landscape, with the porch as an extension of the house’s main social area.
To meet the needs of the new inhabitants, a home renovation in a high-density residential area followed the design of an intimate space located inside a crowded context. Thus, ‘Nhaso 27 House’ follows a color strategy that keeps simple and lighter colors on the inside and leaves a bright red for the exterior architectural elements, invigorating the façade and, consequently, the neighborhood.
The white concrete volume plays with touches of red on the steel stairs, railings, and doors to draw people’s attention to them. As such, the exterior layout brings only three colors to the game: white for the concrete mass, green from the vegetation, and red to distinguish certain elements. During the renovation process, the color red was one of the chosen factors to remain intact, keeping the initial layout’s decision.
Definition of Spaces
Choosing the right color can turn emptiness into an eye-catching space. Depending on the selected color –which responds to the type of use of the project– architecture can create soothing, luminous or cheerful spaces, among others, building different scenarios that influence the perception of space.
The Community Arts Laboratory (CO*LAB) highlights the existing building’s fabric through the introduction of glowing yellow dashes –in various forms– throughout the galley, theater, workshops, and studios. Together with zonification of spaces –creating more than one area within the same room– yellow is used to distinguish elements from the mostly black and white walls and floors of the building. The project’s approach to the use of color and illumination aims to radiate its energy into the neighborhood’s street life.
The gallery space plays with the implementation of gloving polycarbonate panels and the diffused light received by the large glazed doors which connect with the street. Facing the street, the facade’s varied materiality combines existing elements with a bright yellow that brings attention into the new architectural elements. In the interior, the design of an ‘all-yellow’ hallway demonstrates how color transforms an empty space into a new atmosphere which evokes cheerfulness. In the words of Pablo Picasso, “colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”
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